DevOpsDays London 2017: Mental Wellbeing, Learnings from the Unexpected and Incident Management

This post was written by Chris O’Dell co-author of Team Guide to Software Releasability.

DevOpsDays was back in London this week and was lucky enough to go along on the second day. The format was a mix of presentations the morning, ignite talks after lunch and Open Spaces for the remainder of the day.  I particularly like this mix as the talks give context and knowledge sharing in a structured way whilst the open spaces give the opportunity to talk with your peers.

Healthy Minds In A Healthy Community

The day opened with Erik Sasha Romijn and their talk “Healthy Minds In A Healthy Community”.  Erik discussed how open source commits can lead to an unhealthy cycle of taking on more and more responsibilities and that saying “No” is a reasonable and required step for maintaining a healthy contribution level. This can also be seen in other voluntary tasks such as meetup and conference organising and, of course, also at work. About 1 in 4 people will experience mental illness in their lifetime (involving formal diagnosis and treatment).  Erik reminds us that no-one is alone and even at the conference there are other people in the room with similar struggles.


The Oath Of Non-Allegiance

Louise Palling gave a thought provoking talk asking us to challenge our assumptions that no good can come from certain practices.  Many practices are generally accepted as good (kanban boards, standups, no silos, etc) and others are generally accepted as not so good or as having nothing relevant to our field. Louise picks out elements from various practices that she has found useful in technology.  From Waterfall Louise takes risk management.  From SAFe she takes the practice of a combined planning session for cross-team dependencies.  From outside of Technology Louise highlights the Checklist Manifesto as a technique for incident management, the Pomodoro Technique for improving concentration, the Monte Carlo Method for highlighting multiple techniques for estimation.

Louise finishes by asking us to take Alistair Cockburn’s “Oath Of Non-Allegiance“, which I do willingly.

I’m tired of people from one school of thought dissing ideas from some other school of thought. I hunger for people who don’t care where the ideas come from, just what they mean and what they produce. So I came up with this “Oath of Non-Allegiance”.

Surviving As A Mum In DevOps

From the Ignite talks Ebru Cucen described her journey of “Surviving As A Mum In DevOps”.  Ebru covers the assumptions of a DevOps practitioner (young, single, male) which can make your time much tougher if you do not fit this.  Currently only only 6% of people in DevOps are Women (as per the State of DevOps report), this exacerbates the “leaky pipeline” where there is a lack of senior role models and mentors for those entering the field.  Interviews are a very time consuming activity and require at least half a day.  This takes planning and co-ordination ensure sufficient childcare and extra planning if you are returning from an extended work absence (pregnancy, care of an elderly dependent, for example).

There are things male partners can do to help, such as take on more of the household chores which would free up the woman to take part in meetups and other events which have become and essential part of building a career in tech.  Work places can provide more support such as phased return to work options and also ensuring all of these are offered to their male employees too who have recently become fathers.  Can interviews be paid?  Can DevOps roles allow more working from home?  All intriguing questions which could help to improve the diversity of our field.

Open Space discussions

The Open Spaces are under Chatham House rule, meaning that no attributions are allowed and thus promoting a freer exchange of ideas.  I attended one space which focussed more on mental wellbeing and asked how managers and companies can better support employees at times of need.  Those who are managers ask for better training to handle discussions with care and it was mentioned that companies can set up Employee Assistance Programs at a reasonable cost which give a greater return on staff health.

Another Open Space was on Incident Management and how other handle it.  The Proposer was from a small company with no structure in place for handling outages and was curious to learn from others.  The suggestions with the greatest impact were to utilise a fully fledged incident response system, including PagerDuty, OpsGenie or others, which allow for scheduling and automated escalation policies.  These take away the ambiguity and scramble of who handles an incoming alert and provides clear lines of responsibility.  The other was to spend time on runbooks/playbooks for scenarios which again remove uncertainty.

One thing that really stood out to me was the effort the organisers had gone to to ensure the event was welcoming and supportive for all.  There were free creche facilities and the talks were live captioned.  It felt really great to be a part of that.

I really enjoyed the day and I’m looking forward to the next time it’s back in London!


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: